They Used to be SO Good…

We all have favorite places to go, but what happens when that place changes in some way making it less of a favorite? Is it truly the business, or is it your expectations? Truth be told it is probably a combination of both. I experienced this a lot in San Antonio, Texas. We lived there for a year, moved here to Vegas and then moved back for 4 years. In our first stay in SATX, I loved everything about it – the food, the culture, the scenery and the just about everything else. When we moved back after having lived in Vegas, my expectations of what is good had changed a great deal and other than the great friends I made while living there, I couldn’t wait to leave.

Having lived in Vegas on and off since 1998, I have seen a LOT of changes in retail, restaurants and services. Not all of them for the good. Not all of them for the worse either. Here’s a short list of some of my observations of places that used to be SO good. The saddest part of this list is that most of these are locally owned businesses (yes, the chain is a locally owned franchise) not big corporations.

The Downtown Grand – If you read my blog regularly you have already seen this, if you don’t – click here.

Streets of New York Pizza (Farm & Norman Rockwell location) – Yes, I know this is a chain, but in the Far NW of the valley there aren’t that many options for decent pizza and these guys deliver. The problem is that when they first opened they were fast, friendly and the pizza wasn’t horrible. The last time we ordered we were quoted a 45 minute wait that turned into well over an hour (we live 1.2 miles from this location), they were curt on the phone and the driver was rude. And to top it off the pizza sucked. I now make my pizza at home or we drive crosstown to Naked City or pick up at the Cosmopolitan when we are on the Strip.

Shuck’s – When we first moved to this area in 2008, we were delighted with this little indie fish place. Everything was fresh, tasty and they used REAL seafood, nothing imitation. I happen to have an allergy to SOMETHING in surimi – aka imitation crab – that makes me break out in hives (Moment of Truth – I think when it is on the menu they should have to spell it with a K so that I KNOW what I am ordering). Well, Shuck’s has a Louis Salad that USED to feature shrimp and crab, now it is Krab. While the service is still friendly, the food quality has gone down significantly, but it still a decent place to drink BMC* and watch a Chicago sports team game.

The Wicked Spoon Buffet at the Cosmopolitan– I know, I know. It’s a buffet. But, it USED TO BE A GREAT BUFFET. Now it’s just a buffet. When Jack was little we’d go to buffets A LOT because he could try everything and if he didn’t like it, it wasn’t a big deal for him to get something else. I am convinced that his trips to buffets at 5 – 8 years of age are responsible for him being such a voracious eater willing to try just about anything. The Wicked Spoon drew me in with house made marshmallows, individual Staub serving cocottes and really interesting menu items. Once they had me hooked, they changed all of that and now are just another pedestrian buffet on the Strip. Of course, this is still the only one I will go to…

New York Chinese at Wynn and Lake Mead Blvd. Yes, I know this place was seriously written up by the health dept., but that didn’t stop me. Their food WAS the closest thing to New York style Chinese food I have had in years. One of my pet peeves about wonton soup is when the wontons are put in and left to sit there and  get slimy and fall apart. This place USED to put them in right before you picked up your order, so they were toothsome and a little chewy. The fried wontons are filled with meat, not Krab Rangoon and the egg rolls are a perfectly excellent balance of veggies with bits of meat. Everything was delish. I am not sure what happened, but now they either have a new cook or new owners, and the food isn’t the same. The soups and main dishes are bland and the wontons are slimy. The fried wontons and egg rolls continue to be good, but considering it is nearly 25 minutes from my house and we have to pick the order up, there is a place that delivers that is better; not the same menu options, but better quality.

Big Dogs Brewing/The Draft House – In 1998 Big Dogs had several locations, including one on Nellis by the base, one on Sahara and one on the Strip not the lone location on Rancho. The food was good bar food, nothing fancy. The service was friendly and accurate and the beers were coming along. Flash forward to today and the sole location and I have no clue as to what happened with their food. We used to go there every Sunday with friends and have lunch (before the F-ball game started) and then one day it all went to hell in a handbasket. In the past 6 years I have not once ordered my food and had it come out correctly. I am not joking. Everything from cold fries, burnt buns and bread on sandWISHES, over cooked eggs and burgers to the entire wrong plate brought to the table. They had a frequent guest rewards card that we earned tons of freebies on, but when it came time to cashing them in there was always a problem. And don’t even get me started on their servers! There is one blowsy middle aged blonde and I can’t figure out how she still has a job. Each time she has waited on us she has fucked up everything from our beer order to the check presentation. It has gotten to the point that I won’t eat there unless I am attending one of their beer festivals which are actually A LOT of fun. And while the food has suffered, the beer is better. Let’s see what happens with their new brew master since Dave Otto is moving to PT’s Brewhouse.

So what happened? Did my expectations change or did the merchants? I expect menus to change and they should for a number of reasons. Making seasonal changes makes sense and a fresh menu keeps the regulars intrigued. Fan Faves usually stay on the menu and sometimes the changes don’t work. That is to be expected. But what happens when there is a breakdown in service or quality of food? I am always left wondering if it is ME or it is them. In some cases I KNOW it’s not me, but in others I have to question if I misremembered how good something was or if my expectations of what is good have changed that much.

Change is good and the only constant in the universe, but when it comes to food all changes should be for the better.

*BMC = Bud, Miller, Coors. You know, Crap on Tap.